Vineyard Seasons

What a gorgeous cookbook! vsbysbby Susan Branch, illustrated by Susan Branch, Little Brown & Company 1988, 160 pages

Not that many pie recipes but the SOUP section really has me intrigued and very ready for fall and football season. Yea, yea, I know it already IS football season but we need to start thinking about the playoffs and what soups will best represent the cities/teams that might vie for the Super SOUP-er Bowl.

My neighbor loaned this to me because of my idea to create a pie book that would include my favorites and also weave in a few literary samples featuring pie within the story. Many a book — as all of my readers here know — contain a pie reference or two but sometimes, the flavor isn’t identified and the pie doesn’t actually propel the plot in anyway. Sometimes, however, it does… (I can think of one off the top of my head; there MUST be more, surely.)

My neighbor, let’s call her Penelope. [Penelope is not her real name.] Penelope says this book came to mind when I talked about my spin on a pie book project so she loaned it to me. Yowza! Talk about intimidation. This book is too pretty! and though the author shares some sweet quotes and a few anecdotes, it really isn’t a good model for what I hope to accomplish. But that’s OK. It was very nice of Penelope to share and some of the recipes look amazing.

I made a few copies (the chocolate mousse and something else I’ve forgotten already.) It has a Boston Crème Pie recipe – which is cake. (Maybe I should invent a Boston Cream Cake and have it actually be pie?)

Haven’t cooked anything yet, but thought I would post the link to Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking Linkup despite that little issue. Click this button: wkendcooking (will open a new window.)

I’m glad to know of Susan Branch – her many cookbooks are highly regarded and I can see why – the pages are works of art! A very pretty book to savor.

Rating:  Four Slices of Boston Cream.



Question for any NanoWriMo-ers: do you think I can write 50000 words towards this project or should I write a story and not attempt nonfiction? I have less than 30 days to get some ideas!




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Thoughts sbylwnbylw by Lindy West, Hachette Audiobook 2016, 6 hours 9 minutes

Narrated by the author.

Genre: Memoir, Feminism
Type/Source: Audiobook/Audible
 Why I read this now: I wanted a short ‘something-different’ to follow Germinal. It was a perfect choice.

MOTIVATION for READING:  I had heard this was a fabulous ‘author narration’ and I wanted to try it out.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: These are fantastic essays on some big issues in our culture. Ms. West is helping make the world a little better, by speaking her mind and doing it so eloquently and succinctly. She is doing it FOR other women and is bravely wading in through the murky nasty waters of where the trolls live:  the internet. Actually, that isn’t accurate. She is doing her work – the work she has a right to be working – and it seems to be that trolls really dislike it. She isn’t inviting it or showing up there on a purpose of being where the trolls are, I mean. Where ever ‘there’ is, if you understand. I admire her wit and her ability to put these powerful words together and daring to shout them out loud.

I admire her very very much.

If there is any one thing that was frustrating, it was that I just don’t know all the names she mentions. It’s not like she shows off who she knows, per se, but that I just don’t have a clue who some (cough, a LOT) of people she talks about, mostly comedians — that is all on me because I can be pretty clueless about celebrities. To be honest, I really didn’t know who ‘Lindy West’ was before seeing everyone chat this up in the bookterwebs. Interestingly, I *did* know about the writer who dealt with a troll for an npr segment but I just hadn’t remembered that writer was Lindy West. I know I will never forget her now.

RATING:  Five slices of pie. She mentions pie in her book, bless her heart.

For one of Shannon’s Read This Watch That pairings with this book, read her post at River City Reading.



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Murder Must Advertise

Thoughts mmabyds by Dorothy Sayers, Harper & Brothers 1933, 344 pages

Challenge: Classics Club 50
Genre: Murder Mystery
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
 Why I read this now:  I think because it felt like a good companion read to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Maybe.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: I think I’ll share the official blurb from goodreads. Oh – do know if you don’t already, the book cover above links to…

When advertising executive Victor Dean dies from a fall down the stairs at Pym’s Publicity, Lord Peter Wimsey is asked to investigate. It seems that, before he died, Dean had begun a letter to Mr. Pym suggesting some very unethical dealings at the posh London ad agency. Wimsey goes undercover and discovers that Dean was part of the fast crowd at Pym’s, a group taken to partying and doing drugs. Wimsey and his brother-in-law, Chief-Inspector Parker, rush to discover who is running London’s cocaine trade and how Pym’s fits into the picture–all before Wimsey’s cover is blown.

WHAT’s GOOD:  The energy, the cleverness, the humor. The dashing always amiable and capable Lord Wimsey. The setting of London and the descriptions of what life was like after World War I but before the Great Depression. It’s quite daring and had much to reflect on for how times are now as well as consideration of what is different in law enforcement these days compared to then. But who knew ‘drugs’ were so ‘bad’ then – if felt very modern.

p.78 “Everybody is picking up the body and exclaiming over it, when in walks our friend, innocently, from the lav. It’s as simple as pie.”

What’s NOT so good: I do think this wasn’t the best book FOR ME to be introduced to Lord Wimsey – I knew nothing other than he is beloved. I wish I had more background to his ‘story’ and that is my fault because I generally eschew ‘knowing too much’. I also have trouble relating to the ‘charm’ if you will of the class system in England as humor. (I have trouble with PG Wodehouse, too – just don’t think his madcap hilarity is all that funny.)

FINAL THOUGHTS:  It was a fun read and I thought I knew whodunit but didn’t really, it was almost like the big reveal was a slow realization that you doubt than wonder why – it was all spelled out, really. I guess that means that I thought it fell flat at the end but really, I did enjoy my time with this book and could be talked into having a bit of a crush on Wimsey – he is a charmer.

RATING: Three slices of  GOOSEBERRY pie.

Another “simple as pie” and a humble pie; quite a few lobster mentions, too.

p.84 “She thinks I’m the world’s eighth wonder. Absolutely the lobster’s dress-shirt.”



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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Thoughts taaokacbymc by Michael Chabon, Picador 2000, 639 pages

Narrated by David Colacci audiomcdc 26 hours, 20 minutes

Challenge: Pulitzer Reading Challenge (unofficial)

I’m just going to ramble and don’t feel like following my usual review template. This is one of those books that fell into my life without me remembering how and why or who recommended. I am sure that I read somewhere about it winning the Pulitzer and I am aware the Mr. Chabon is married to author Ayelet Waldman. I haven’t read anything by her, either, though I follow her on Twitter. I really do think her first name is cool. And that’s all I know. Wait! I do know that Chabon wrote Wonder Boys and I liked the movie, I think. Maybe it is really just an admission that my memory is not what it should be!

Kavalier and Clay are comics writers. They were instrumental in the first heady days of the comic book industry of the late 1930s and early 40s. Do I read comic books? No. Do I read graphic novels? No, but I always put the ones everybody talks about on my tbr but I never seem to get to them.

(I do know who Stan Lee is. I do watch The Big Bang Theory.) It could be said that there is a lot to geek out about in this book if you were such a person who geeks out about literature and comics and magic and…  lots of stuff.

Would I have read this book if I had known it was about the comic book industry?! I think I wouldn’t have. I do not remember how I came to be in possession of a print copy nor how/why I also secured the audiobook. Oh well. Committed, I shall be.

I was not disappointed. I really did enjoy reading about Sam Clay and his cousin from Prague, Mr. Joe Kavalier. But especially Rosy and Tommy. The descriptions of NYC; the life and times in that city were fascinating. The city and maybe the Empire State Building could be considered characters. The book is sprawling and epic, back and forth in time somewhat (early days for both Sam and Clay) and I, as a reader, became invested in their goals, dreams, and struggles.

I am pretty sure I wanted to read this because it won the Pulitzer and though I am not obsessed with trying to read every winner, I seem to add them to my tbr and they seem to show up on my ‘read me next’ stack. Perhaps it best not to analyze too much.  I read two this month with little thought about it – “Oh yea, that won the Pulitzer. Huh.”

I learned a  lot about comics, I learned about about Judaism. I came to really appreciate Chabon’s skillful writing. Definitely has humor and amusement to balance against the sad crap of life situations and nastiness of war and the Holocaust. and OMIGOODNESS! The obvious research depth and wonderful creativity! Yowza POW!

I did not, however, find the narration to be as excellent at the story. I didn’t like the voice for Joe Kavalier. Too Dracula-sounding. But I will give credit that he did quite good with Rosy and Tommy and it was easy to tell the differences between characters. I just did NOT like Joe’s voice. At all. I listened to most of the book but ended up reading the last 100 pages.

May I point you to a fabulous review of this novel that really has much more insight? I present –> LitLove’s Tales from the Reading Room <–



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Do you think Sam makes good in Hollywood? Do you think Joe ended up publishing his Golem story at his new company? Does Rosy continue HER career? Did you buy that the casket with the delivered Golem was so very very heavy and all it had inside was ‘soft silted dirt’? or did I read/hear that wrong? Would you read a sequel? Do you think a sequel is necessary (I do not. I just wonder about the answers to my questions; probably not best that the author attempt to answer them…) What do you think of the portrayal of women in this novel? Don’t you think if you were Stan Lee you would THRILLED to all HECK to be mentioned in a book that won the Pulitzer?!



RATING: Four slices of pie.  I don’t think I caught any pie mentions.






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Echoes of Family

Thoughts eofbybcw by Barbara Claypole White, ARC Lake Union Publishing 2016 (expected Sept 27), 440 pages

Challenge: Reading books pub’d in current year. Actually, OFFICIAL PUBLISH date is one month away.
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback / the author offered me a copy
 Why I read this now: I wanted to.

MOTIVATION for READING:  It seems that I am attempting to read all of BCW’s books as fast a possible.

Sometimes the only way through darkness is to return to where it began.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  We have a strong woman named Marianne who is “bi-polar”and manages to not only run a successful recording studio business but has also created a program to assist young female runaways. She has a big heart. We meet her husband Darius who is fiercely in love with her and her ‘daughter’ Jade who was a ‘rescued’ teen and is now the right-hand more-than-competent “capital A” Assistant in support of all things Marianne. Of course, we meet others of consequence, too: her childhood BFF Gabriel.

However strong Marianne is, she does have lapses and this latest one takes her to England and into her past. In her manic moments, she is “whirlwind action” of turmoil and love — some of it works, some does not. She has to learn to deal with her memories of family gone, her place in the world, and her family now.

WHAT’s GOOD:  Claypole White can write an engaging character. Her descriptions of Marianne’s extremes on that bi-polar spectrum are high-spirited and then turn to low-energy —  just like the mental illness she is capturing. I was amazed how my heart raced through the mania!

Knowing what I do know of this North Carolinian author, I delighted in the places mentioned that I know and many smatterings of native birds and flowers. She is excellent at referencing her known world. I am not as familiar with the English setting but Claypole White has a eye for authentic detail and sharing it with her words.

What’s NOT so good: I thought it took a bit to get into but I was confident I would be in for a well-rounded interesting and lively tale if I stuck with it and I was not disappointed at the end.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I am excited to continue working through all of BCW’s books; I have in-house The Unfinished Garden on the docket soon. What I might have to consider is that she is only just starting her fifth novel and I might get impatient!

Since God hadn’t listened when she’d asked Him, sweet as pie, to lobotomize the part of her brain that insisted she was in love, Jade had developed a new ploy…

RATING:  Three and one-half slices of pie, rounding up to four.


Oh yes, she may have forgotten about all her pie references, but the reading did not disappoint! We had mini-tarts of bourbon pecan, we had (of course, duh – set in England) steak and kidney pie, and most unexpected but extremely delightful: orange-and-rhubarb pie! I will have to make this. And treacle tart. I am on the search for a bottle of treacle so that I can perfect this treat before the Scuppernong Books’ event promoting Barbara Claypole White’s Echoes of Family.



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Go Tell It on the Mountain

Thoughts gtiotmbyjb by James Baldwin, Blackstone Audio 2013 (orig 1953), 8 hours 45 minutes

Narrated by Adam Lazarre-White.

Challenge: Personal
Genre: American classic, coming of age
Type/Source: Audio/Audible
 Why I read this now: This was the only audiobook I had on my phone at the moment I was ready to listen to a new one.

MOTIVATION for READING: I am curious. Baldwin is mentioned as an important writer and I had yet to read any of his work.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Not at all what I expected. I thought it was a going to be an essay on race relations in America. It’s fiction! I did not know it was fiction. I did not know it was semi-autobiographical. I was not prepared at all for this.

It is a story of a family and an individual family member grappling with his destiny against family history and expectations and cultural storms. It captures a certain place and time but the theme is universal.

WHAT’s GOOD: The writing blew me away. Here’s the blurb from goodreads; bold red font emphasis is mine:

Go Tell It on the Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.


RATING: Four slices of pie. The narration is excellent.

“after dinner, they brought up the pie and coffee and cream…”





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Notorious RBG

Thoughts nrbgbyicsk by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhinik, Dey St imprint of WmMorrow, 227 pages

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Type/Source: Hardback, Library

MOTIVATION for READING: This Supreme Court Justice has always interested me. Everyone is raving about this book.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Apparently, and for perfectly wonderful reasons, RBG has captivated the hearts of many for her groundbreaking work in law and her thoughtful and sharp reasonings on cases appearing before the Highest Court. This short book tells a bit about her whole life – how she started and what she is doing now. It doesn’t go into much depth but just enough to get a sense for her character, her smarts, her sense of humor and her incredible work ethic.

RATING: I rated it 5 pie slices because I truly enjoyed learning more about the background and work of this amazing woman.




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Thoughts webymhtph Whatever by Michel Houellebecq / translated by Paul Hammond, Serpent’s Tail / Profile Books Ltd 2011 (orig 1994), 155 pages

Challenge: 1001+ Books to Read Before You Die
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback / Library 14-day Loan (oops – I started this on the 15th day… So I will owe a bit in late fees.)
 Why I read this now: It called to me when I glanced at the NEW BOOKS shelf at the library. Back in May 2008, I signed up for a challenge to read 1% of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die and I listed this book solely based on the title. It called to me, but I never got to it. So, of course, when I see this at the library while casually glancing at a shelf – I wasn’t even looking for anything specific! – I had to bring it home with me. And it is short. I’m into the shorties lately…

From Tony Litt’s Introduction:

Houellebecq’s first book was on HP Lovecraft.

Houellebecq hates office workers as does ‘the novel’.

The tone of Whatever is ‘beastly tired’.

The original title of Whatever was An Extension of the Domain of the Struggle.

“If you’re in search of page-turning plot-twistiness, fuck off.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT (with spoilers since I doubt anyone I know will ever read this book and/or just might because I spoil the heck out of it): Told in the first person, our protagonist is a computer programmer. Single and lonely. And bitter. He is assigned to train clients on a computer application and has to or gets to travel to other towns in France to do so. A coworker assists in the delivery of the  training. He experiences a mild heart attack. He is only 30 years old. He writes animal stories to amuse himself. He tries to convince the coworker to kill a beautiful young lady who turns him down at a club. The coworker ends up dying in a car crash. Our protag has a nervous breakdown and/or is admitted to a mental hospital. He gets released. The end. Not really. Let’s say it ends ambiguously.

WHAT’s GOOD: At times it is actually funny. Bitter insight to the absurdity of corporate work and the people who ‘work in offices’.  Other times, the reader winces at the misogyny and violent tendencies.

The theme could be summed up as “Life sucks and then you die.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: I guess I have to laugh and agree with these two review quotes:

From the Independent:  “Funny, terrifying and nauseating.”

From the Guardian: “the book slips down easily like a bad oyster.”

RATING:  Three slices of pie; I found mention of apple tart.

“His wife absolutely insisted I taste the apple tart her husband didn’t have the strength to swallow. I accepted; it was delicious.”

For something a little lighter maybe, enjoy this French song (and click here for the words in English):

Houellebecq’s most recent novel submission “is both a devastating satire and a profound meditation on isolation, faith and love. It is a startling new work by one of the most provocative and prescient novelists of today.” So says the goodreads blurb. (Cover links to that site.)



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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Thoughts ftmufbyekAtheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster) 2013 orig.1967, 172 pages

For the latest Classics Club Spin. I’m also counting this for the Kids Classic category of the Classics Challenge.

Loved it!

Claudia is a 6th grader who wants to run away so her family will miss her and thus appreciate her. She gets caught up in the planning – she is a very good planner. Smart, too. She ends up taking her little brother Jamie with her, and not just because he has plenty of cash to fund the adventure (though the money does prove helpful) but because he is just a good kid.

The adventure takes a turn when Claudia falls in love with the statue Angel which may or may not be a work of Michelangelo. She cannot return home until she KNOWS!

Fun book. Very quick to read. Four slices of pie. fourpie

“Jamie bought a cheese sandwich and coffee. After eating these he still felt hungry and told Claudia she could have twenty-five cents more for pie if she wished. Claudia, who had eaten cereal and drunk pineapple juice, scolded him about the need to eat properly. Breakfast food for breakfast, and lunch food for lunch.” [Phooey on that – I’m with Jamie. Pie for breakfast is CERTAINLY acceptable and appropriate.]

Another favorite quote from page 151:

“Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”

Winner of the Newbery Medal.


Possible Spoiler; I have a question… I totally failed to find the link between the attorney and the kids – he was the kids’ grandfather!? I was a bit gobsmacked at the end with this minor plot point revelation. But I didn’t let it diminish my enjoyment.



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Welcome to the Departure Lounge

Thoughts wttdlbymf Adventures in Mothering Mother by Meg Frederico, Random House 2009, 191 pages

From the blurb:

A fresh, funny new voice, Meg Federico showcases her keen eye for the absurd in this poignant, hilarious, and timely account of one daughter’s tumultuous journey caring for her aging parents.

When Meg Federico’s eighty-year-old mother and newly minted step-father were forced to accept full-time home care, she imagined them settling into a Norman-Rockwellian life of docile dependency. With a family of her own and a full time career in Nova Scotia – a thousand miles away from her parents – Federico hoped they would be able to take care of themselves for the most part, and call on their children when they really needed them – but of course that’s not quite what happens.

As she watches with horror from the sidelines, Federico’s parents turn into terrible teens. Fighting off onslaughts of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Addie and Walter, forbidden by doctors to drink, conspire to order cases of scotch by phone; Addie’s attendant accuses the evening staff of midnight voodoo; Walter’s inhibitions decline as dementia increases and mail-order sex aides arrive at the front door. The list of absurdities goes on and on as Federico tries to take some control over her parents’ lives – and her own.

This is a story for the huge generation – nearly 76 million people – now dealing with the care of their parents. You’ll laugh and cry as you read this powerful and important debut.

I know I grabbed this one off the shelf because it was short, it  had lived on my shelf for some years and I was hoping it would be funny. Well. I should have known better. Attempting to insert this as a stopgap read while stalling the ending to Salem’s Lot, I realized once again that the horrors of real life always trump the scary nasty monstor du jour created by the mind of Stephen King.

Hats off to Jenny –who has convinced me that Reading-the-End-Before-Reading-the-Middle has its advantages; I skipped over the 4th-7th chapters, read the last two plus Epilogue and then skimmed back over whatever I had to to place it all in context. The book didn’t suffer.

In fact, I thank Frederico for the care and compassion she showed her mother and shares here with her readers. I appreciated the advice on some key isuses. Some GOOD ADVICE that I didn’t know: important to choose hospice at ‘that time’ because they have powers and options that smooth the process for dying at home; like access to pain meds and death pronouncement. Saves a bunch of hassle apparently. No one needs more hassle at that time when you really all need peace. The author’s experiences were interesting, both crazy sad and funny, and she is an excellent writer.

However, I can’t quite imagine who this book is for. Those who are in the midst of going through the challenges of taking care of parents might not want to read about it and those who are not near this phase of life, probably don’t want to know about it.

I encourage anyone interested in the slightest to click on the cover and read the reviews – many are just SPOT ON and thus I won’t attempt to recreate my own review.

Rating:  Three slices of pie.

wian15 Could count for two categories of this year’s What’s in a Name Challenge! familial relation and title with ING.


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